(Opinion piece by Jarette Petzer, Founder #ImStaying)
If you were to ask me in our early days of #ImStaying (7 September 2019) what this group was, and someone did, I could not give a clear answer because I was not exactly sure…
I knew that it was something special given the public interest, and I knew that I wanted to use it to help South Africa and to help our people, but to define it into one simple word seemed almost impossible.
What transpired over the next few weeks and months was almost indescribable!
South Africans across the country and from all over the world began to share stories of how everyday men and woman had been helped or had helped each other in times of need.
We began to share stories of hope. We began to share in each other’s cultures, and the most breath-taking imagery of landscapes that make up this most beautiful country that we call home.
The stories made us cry and they made us laugh. They brought out our compassion and our humanity and showed us the deep emotion of love that we all had for each other.
These stories cut through the rhetoric of fear and division that was consistently being pushed onto us by mainstream and social media – it was like a hot knife through butter. And so began the spreading of a stronger sense of unification among all our different races and cultures that make this nation what it is. A melting pot of richly diverse people, food, fashion and many belief systems and languages.
These stories and the sharing in each other’s lives for the first time helped us all to see through the looking glass and reach out to “the other side”. A place forgotten or one which had never truly been explored, until now.
For the first time in a long time we began to feel hopeful.
Hopeful in our ability to learn from one another and work together.
Hopeful that, despite our challenges, there was as much if not more opportunity.
Hopeful that if we came together as a people, we might have a real chance at turning the tables around against seemingly unbeatable odds.
It was staring me in the face the entire time, but it took a friend to utter the word in my ear. That one word that put it all together. Like a silver sphere for change in our time. HOPE!
Sometimes all we need is that tiny glimmer of hope. That tiny flickering flame in a room filled with darkness and despair, to turn our hearts and our minds around.
One flame became two, and then twenty thousand, and then half a million, and today we are no longer a flickering light, but a raging fire of hope, made up of over one million men and woman who share this same belief.
ONE MILLION of us who now have HOPE!
There are many more stories to share, and many more tears of joy and of compassion to come from you, from us. This platform, YOUR platform is the place where your words can inspire hundreds and thousands, if not millions of South Africans and people from all over the globe.
Share them with us. Reach deep inside and know that your words today might change someone’s life, or at the very least their view on life and where we are. Your words inspire hope in others.
Don’t keep your beauty within – let us all continue to share in each other’s life experiences, victories, compassion and challenges overcome.
The stage is set, and it’s yours South Africa. Light it up with courage, tolerance, love and HOPE. We are South Africa. Rise!
About #ImStaying; launched as a Facebook group on 7 September 2019 by Jarette Petzer. Now formally registered as an NPC. The group has three full-time employees and 140 volunteer moderators who manage the Facebook group.
#ImStaying is a collective civil movement of passionate South Africans who strive to ignite and motivate all South Africans to work together and to foster a better understanding of our differences and cultures through storytelling, inclusivity, positivity, inspiration, upliftment and hope.
#ImStaying is apolitical.